It must be a rare honour for a filmmaker to have a book written on a film made by him. And that’s exactly how producer-director B. Subhash has been honoured – with a book written on his hit film, Disco Dancer.
Anuvab Pal, who has authored four plays and two films – Loins Of Punjab Presents and The President Is Coming – has written a book titled ‘Disco Dancer’. ‘A comedy in five acts’ is how the book has been described by the author who goes on to translate many portions of the film in English and even pokes fun at the same. However, in the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, Pal writes: ‘I attended a
Disco Dancer theme party at Columbia University in New York in 1998 and was surprised to find, over and above an attempt by guests to emulate the loud outfits the characters wore, people who had memorized lines, sequences and dance moves. A part of this crowd was non-Indian and they told me of Disco Dancer theme parties in San Francisco, London, Oslo and Prague. I guess, for Indians who migrated with the movie and those who discovered it, every Western notion of ‘kitsch’ and this film match perfectly. Plus, it was Bollywood so extreme, so far out there, so truly terribly made, that in some oddly comic way, it becomes accessible to the West. Perhaps, our first genuine crossover success. Recently, pop star M.I.A. released her remixed version of the song ‘Jimmy’ from the movie.
‘In Russia, there are statues for Jimmy and some acquaintances in Kazakhstan told me that when Mithun Chakraborty went to Almaty, the capital, the president’s address to the nation was cancelled because a million-strong crowd was busy welcoming Mithun at the airport. In Tokyo, there’s a shrine to The Disco Dancer. In Egypt, people serenade Indian tourists by singing Disco Dancer songs. Across Western Asia in general, a swath generally denied Hollywood entertainment through the Cold War years, movies like Disco Dancer, and especially this one, found the audience it was always searching for. An audience that bought the idea that this was indeed a plausible dream being chased by plausible people. Either that or they worshipped Jimmy like a Sasha Baron Cohen or Mike Myers or Mr. Bean. Perhaps, pre-empting Austin Powers or Borat, perhaps a dancing Inspector Clouseau. If you start watching this movie with that mindset, every word uttered by the characters is hilarious.
‘In him we see our fiat cars, our safari suits, our Johnny Walker smugglers, our Indira Gandhi, our limits on foreign exchange, our ration cards, our Sikh riots, our Doordarshan, our celebration at a home phone connection, ourselves. ‘Deep down, I am a Disco Dancer. ‘And I hope you will be too.’
The book is published by HarperCollins India in its Film Series, as a joint venture with the India Today Group. Incidentally, B. Subhash’s name has appeared in the textbook for the First Year B.A. and B.Com. students, published by Sheth Publishers and written by M.R. Wadhwani, Sahu Raja and K. Purnima Rao.